So, following on from the theory, what have I actually been doing with the client experience model?
A couple of points to note: first of all, if your underlying product or service is a pile of crap, there is only so far one can, to coin a phrase, ‘polish a turd’; secondly, this is a continuing process, and we still have much to do.
Managing the promise of what we offer has been a big challenge. The IT department that I inherited was one that was shrouded in secrecy. As a result, there has been a breadth of expectation about the services that can be offered, much of which hasn’t been made.
Recently we have been doing work to define our service offering in a way that is easily (I hope) digestible by everyone in the business. There are four elements: core services (devices, networks, security); software services (which are what you use the core services for, and split loosely into collaboration services and creative tools); service delivery (keeping all of the top two running); and projects (infrastructure ones that make changes to the core services, and business change ones that add or alter our software services).
Publishing a team structure that explains who does all of the above, and some basic commitments on availability and response (opening hours, service levels for incidents and requests) forms the basic elements of the IT Promise. I have deliberately kept away from the language of things like ITIL, but used its key principals.
Further down the line, a clear service catalogue is the next big step. But, in the meantime, I have been taking the above out (literally) on the road to let anyone who is willing to listen know about it.
Managing the perception of our service has also had it’s challenges. The team was split into two offices at either end of a basement corridor when I started, and the comparisons with The IT Crowd were not difficult to make.
Moving everyone into a single office space, providing good meeting room and
workbench facilities, and generally smartening up (including a clear desk policy) have helped to make us appear more like the professionals that we are.
There is still work to be done in many of our interactions with our clients, but we are steadily improving with an influx of very people-centred support analysts. A new helpdesk system later this year which will replace a somewhat ramshackle bespoke effort will also help, and we are running some workshops with volunteers from around the business to make sure we implement process that fits need.
Providing a lightweight, but coherent and effective project reporting and team structure framework has also greatly improved not only our ability to deliver, but our client’s trust in our ability to deliver, and recent projects have been seen by many on the board as exemplary.
Proving the quality of services back to the business was probably the easiest area to start implementing – it’s all about being unafraid to tell people about the stuff you’re doing, and realising that they might actually be interested. Monthly project and service delivery reporting at board level, meetings with key managers on a regular basis, and presenting to anyone who will give me the time have been key (as well as sharing all of this in the team as well). An annual staff survey has been another great way of picking up on trends and being able to feedback. I surprised quite a few this year by actually emailing everyone who had comments for suggestion or some negative feedback- and the workshop volunteers for the service improvement work came from people who commented on the survey that our helpdesk service could be improved.
Recently I have also been working with our PR team to get publicity on our work externally as well. This is virtuous for both internal perceptions of how we are doing, but also for the company profile in general. Computer Weekly this week provided more positive messages.
Still, we have much to do, as all of the above runs in parallel to the fundamental overhaul of our services. But factoring our client’s perception is also having some impact on our project scheduling. From a pure technology perspective, it would have been preferable to refresh our core networks before moving into cloud collaboration services – but that would have left no visible change in the services that actually mattered to people for far too long. The calculated risk of moving to Google in advance of refreshing much of our network infrastructure was one that had to be taken. Now we have the credibility and trust to be able to make major decisions about the underlying infrastructure.